On Saturday, we woke up to drizzly rain and temperatures in the forties. After checking the weather forecast, we decided to just do what the locals do, just get on with our plans. As we drove away from Welches, near the base of Mount Hood, the weather warmed slightly and the rain became patchy.
We found a Starbucks about fifteen miles down the road in Sandy, Oregon. After we fortified ourselves with coffee, we started our drive to Tillamook. Our drive took us through Portland and then out Highway 6 right through the Tillamook State Forest. This is a 364,000 acre forest located between Portland and the Pacific coast. About an hour west of Portland, we stopped at the Tillamook Forest Center, honestly, to use the bathroom. But it was a real treat. This is a beautiful visitors center with hands on educational exhibits perfect for kids and adults. Grandad was very excited to see that the exhibit includes a forest fire lookout tower that you can climb.
The exhibits teach about this forest from the time when it was inhabited by Native Americans up until today. This entire forest was destroyed by a series of forest fires in the 1930s and 1940s. More than 550 square miles were blackened by the fires. The loss of this timberland had a tremendous economic impact on the entire state. The State of Oregon undertook the largest reforestation project in history. In the 1950s and 1960s the forest was replanted by hand using volunteers, paid workers, and prisoners. More than 72 million saplings were planted. The site where the Tillamook Forest Center sits today was entirely planted by schoolchildren.
My favorite part of the exhibit was a place where people who helped plant the forest, most of them as children, can write down their memories. They are collecting and compiling those memories as part of the exhibit.
A walk through the TFC and out the back door takes you to a suspension bridge across the Wilson River which leads to a series of hiking trails and camp sites. We considered the 3.4 miles round trip hike to University Falls, but took a shorter hike instead. That turned out to be a good thing, because just after we returned to the Forest Center building the light rain turned to hail. We spent a little while in the gift shop waiting for the storm to pass.
Next stop Tillamook Cheese Factory.
Ever since we decided to visit Oregon, Grandad has been excited about visiting the Tillamook Cheese Factory. There are few things in this world that Grandad loves more than cheese. You may remember that last year when we went to New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine, a stop at Cabot Cheese was among the highlights of the trip. I've teased him since then that he ate so many samples they probably forwarded his photo to all other cheese factories with a warning to keep an eye out for him.
The good news is, we didn't get kicked out for over-sampling. There really isn't much to see. It's a self-guided tour with a small sampling table at the end. The tour takes you upstairs to a viewing gallery located above the factory floor. They were not making cheese while we were there, but they had one line open where they were cutting and packaging cheese. They have an impressive company store with lots of different cheeses. My favorite was the Garlic Chili Pepper Cheddar. We left with several varieties to eat this week.
They also have a cafe and ice cream counter. We had a late lunch of beef barley soup with ice cream for dessert. I also picked up a couple of Christmas gifts in the gift shop.
We left Tillamook and drove to the coast in search of one of Oregon's lighthouses. The weather had warmed into the upper 50s and it was still raining off and on. It's only a short drive from Tillamook to the coast. We were delighted to arrive at Cape Mears and Symons State Scenic Viewpoint. We pulled off the road into a parking lot to take pictures. Some other beach visitors encouraged us to walk down the beach and go through a short tunnel to a hidden beach. We were intrigued enough to give it a try. About half of the tunnel is paved, after that it's rough going with rocks and standing water. It ends with a steep rocky path that you have to climb down. That's where we stopped. But, we could see the back side of the rocks, so we stood there and snapped some photos before turning around. We were struck by the differences between this rocky coastline and the sandy coast of Texas.
It was almost sunset when we got there, but we decided to walk down the path anyway. When you approach the lighthouse from the path, you are at the same level with the light because the lighthouse is actually built down the side of the coast. The path winds all the way down so you can stand at the base of the lighthouse. Another couple kindly took a photo of us. After snapping a few pictures, we headed back up the trail. We got pretty soaked by the time we got back to the car which made for a pretty cold drive back to Welches, about two and half hours away.
Tomorrow, we'll spend a day in Portland and have lunch with Grandad's cousin, Cielle, and her husband, Jerome. We can't wait to see them. They're both Texas kids who are living in Portland. I think they miss being close to family.